Zen and the Art of Evasion

An alleged rape points to big workhouse problems

At $115,024 per year, Schriro is the sixth-highest-paid city employee, earning even more than her boss, public-safety director Ed Bushmeyer. Her predecessor, Alice Pollard-Buckingham, earned $82,810.

Workhouse superintendent Dennis L. Blackman, who had held his job for four years, was fired two weeks ago. City officials won't go into detail about the reasons, saying only that Schriro sent him packing after he failed to improve his performance after being placed on probation on March 1.

Joe Rocco

One mistake Blackman made was to ignore rumors that Mason was living with an ex-inmate turned lover, a blatant violation of workhouse policy that forbids employees from fraternizing with felons. Blackman kept his job for nearly two months after admitting that he hadn't checked out the rumors, which proved true.

Reed says Mason should be prosecuted, but that won't happen.

"There are not going to be charges," says Ed Postawko, section chief of the circuit attorney's sex-crimes and child-abuse unit. "The evidence just isn't there."

Postawko won't talk about the case in detail, but Mason passed a polygraph test and doctors found no evidence of rectal trauma, says public-safety director Ed Bushmeyer in a June 6 letter to Alderwoman Sharon Tyus (D-20th Ward), who wrote to him inquiring about the incident. Nor did Reed have a wound on the back of his head to bolster his story that Mason cold-cocked him, Bushmeyer wrote, but he did have a cut on his forehead.

Just why guards interrupted the encounter remains a mystery. One version of the story has guards bursting into the store room after hearing a commotion; another has Mason himself calling in guards. Postawko says prosecutors weren't able to determine which account is accurate.

Reed says there's no way he had consensual sex with Mason. If anyone wonders whether he's gay, Reed says, they can ask his pregnant girlfriend.

Reed says life on the inside hasn't been the same since his encounter with Mason.

"They're treating me like shit," he says. "Talk bad about me. They kicked me off my job without writing me up."

Though she says sex between inmates and employees can never be truly consensual, Schriro says she doesn't think this was a case of rape, at least as it's defined by state law.

"Based on the facts, and I think they're laid out in Ed's letter, it would suggest that the former employee's account of a voluntary sexual encounter is more likely the truthful account," she says. The incident prompted a review of every inmate's work assignment to determine that he or she is appropriately placed, she adds. And she insists there's light at the end of the workhouse tunnel.

"I'm very heartened by measurable, sustained progress," she says. "But we still have a substantial way to go."

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